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The politics of development in Palau

Erin Thomas (Department of Development Studies, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

International Journal of Development Issues

ISSN: 1446-8956

Article publication date: 29 April 2019

Issue publication date: 24 June 2019




The Republic of Palau in the Micronesian region of the Pacific illuminates the complexities of how the political geography of development is shaped through diplomacy, defense and migration policy. The Compact of Free Association (COFA) between Palau and the US has been a topic of debate and for some resistance.


Through discursive analysis of grey literature and post-development and political geography frameworks, this paper analyzes the way in which development, through unconventional pathways, is used to exert power by Palau’s largest donor, the US.


The donor–recipient, government-to-government framework fails to explore the ways in development is used as power through military operations, zonal capitalism, redefined citizenship and tourism as new aid modalities. These graduated sovereignties in Palau show that political geography is taking shape through new pathways of development, which has resulted in more actors, institutions and discourses.


With limited research on the region of Micronesia and particularly the politics of development, this paper contributes important analysis to the lead up to the COFA renewal negotiations between the US and Palau in 2024.



Thomas, E. (2019), "The politics of development in Palau", International Journal of Development Issues, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 160-170.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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